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Outlaw Racing News
Dukes Again Proves to be Conservation King, Steals Gateway
Madison, IL - A much needed night for a number of drivers as a strategy filled final stage flipped the leaders on their head as much of the field vied for the one stop race. When it comes to getting the best out of their game plan, there are few that can top Aaron Dukes. As he once again proved tonight well outpacing those on a similar one stop strategy. Though its taken half a season for Dukes to finally notch a win on the year, its a step in the right direction for a team looking to turn their season around and into championship contenders.
Even with a win to his name, Dukes didn't mind adding one more accolade as the 99 team was able to give us only our 3rd different pole setter this season. From the drop of the green Dukes was able claw out to nearly a one second lead as much of the field became embattled. However Dukes' enjoyment would slowly come to an end. Shad Swatsworth would slowly over the opening 9 laps reel in the 99 Ford. The two would battle for several laps, trading the lead before contact between the two would bring Mike Montgomery into the fold. Catching the battling leaders sleeping, Montgomery would go two for one in turns 1 & 2, to take the lead with 8 to go in the stage. From there Montgomery would not look back. Cruising for the final laps, the 14 Chevy would take his 3rd stage win of the season.
Stage 2 would see Montgomery flex his muscle ever further. Though Zach Gandee and Richard McGinnis would stay close in tow through much of the stage, neither of them could genuinely challenge the 14. Keeping his competitors at bay for stage number 2, Montgomery would take both stages, notching his 4th stage win of the season.
The racing leading up to the final stage had been excellent with plenty of side by side action throughout the field, and the start of the final 48 laps were no different. The top 4 were essentially under a blanket from the drop of the green. Montgomery led Gandee, Swatsworth, and Pacey Wigent, and they would slowly inch away from the rest of the field. Dennis Boggess and Aaron Dukes weren't too far behind but the front 4 were in a league of their own early on. Even with an ever growing gap, the front 4 weren't content to rest on their laurels. The battling up at the front was fierce and feisty. The lead would change hands a numerous times before the races first pit cycle came upon them. Wigent would open the bidding, being the first to pit road with 30 to go. Soon after would be Swatsworth, Gandee, and Montgomery within laps of each other. However several drivers looked to stretch this first run to lap 76. Dukes, who would inherit the lead, McGinnis and Anthony Benda, all met that goal, rejoining the race with 24 to go. With the pit cycle concluded, Wigent would resume leading the race and many of the front runners looking to jump on the one stop wagon. This endeavor would prove challenging as the 14 and 48 quickly dropped back to the 99 of Dukes in 5th. Gandee would stick with Dukes to keep the 99 team honest, while Montgomery would give in to the inevitable, pitting with 18 to go. Wigent would give up his 12 second lead to hit the pits next, all in on his 2 stop strategy. Swatsworth would now become the race leader, as Dukes and Gandee were quickly closing the gap. In all of 3 laps, Swatsworths' 6 second lead had evaporated as the 46 attempted to save what he could, but the attempt would be in vain. Dukes would take the race lead with 10 to go with Swatsworth pitting shortly after. Gandee would stay tight with Dukes for a majority of the run, doing his best to keep the 99 honest but in the end, Gandee would overuse his Chevy, burning his tires down to the liner and a blown right rear would force the 48 to pit road. From there Dukes could set sail for the checkered flag, with his nearest challenger Sam Wade 8 seconds back. For the first time this season, Dukes sets himself in victory lane, becoming the 5th different race winner this season. Sam Wade has shown he's a force to reckoned with in the fuel mileage races, finishes the night with a solid 2nd place finish. Richard McGinnis saw his strategy play out wonderfully to come home 3rd. Pacey Wigent stuck with his 2 stop strategy, that persistence paid off with a top 5 as the only driver in the top 5 with multiple pit stops. Once again Anthony Benda has found his way into another top 5, going 3 for 3 in his ORS starts this season.
Tonight saw one of the few blemishes on Gandees' otherwise stellar season. A blown tire saw the 48 team relegated to 8th but a strong stage showing helped bail Gandee out of a disappointing finish. Even with the 8th, Gandee still saw his lead grow by 2 points over now second place runner Shad Swatsworth, now 43 points in front. Swatsworth was among those high in the standings to wind up with a rough finish, outside the top 5 for one of the few times this season. Yet with Ryan Lewis taking a provisional, the 46 team did move up in the standings but only gained but one point on the championship lead, unable to capitalize on the 48's misfortune. Mike Montgomery also moved up a spot in the standings to 3rd. On what would've been a huge points night after 2 stage wins, the 14 team also saw a strong night turn to disappointment. Though picking up 4 points on Gandee, now 47 points from the top spot. Ryan Lewis took home a marginal 10 point provisional to drop all the way to 4th in the standings. Lewis would benefit from those around him in the standings having rough nights, not losing much ground in the process. Dukes came out the big winner of the night, picking up the victory on a night everyone above him in the standings was outside the top 5. This was the night Dukes has needed to help catapult the 99 team into the championship picture, but his work his cut out for him and it will be a long road to recover from 70 points down. Its all downhill from here as we bypass the halfway point and embark on the back half of the season. Gandee has done well to put himself well advantaged over the first half of the season, can he do it for 6 more races? Charlotte is the next challenge, who will prevail?
Outlaw Racing News
Swatsworth Outlasts Fuel and Field, Racks Win Number 2 on Season
Concord, NC - For two weeks in a row, pit strategy played the spoiler. Turning again into who could outlast who. Who could make what work. Everyone took a different shot in the dark, and 2 guys hit the bullseye. The ending became a shootout between Shad Swatsworth and Sam Wade. Jockeying for position while keeping just enough fuel in the car to finish the race. In the end, Wade came up 200 feet short. Shad Swatsworth carries his sputtering 46 Chevy across the line, just beating out the coasting 00 of Wade to restake his claim in the championship hunt with win number 2 on the year.
Pacey Wigent reintroduced himself to front running this week, starting off the night with his first pole of the season. Wigent would immediately assert himself a contender from the drop of the green. Mike Montgomery would stick right to the bumper of Wigent with Gandee and Lewis close in tow. Wigent and Montgomery would trade the lead several times before the races first pit cycle. From the first stage, strategy played its role, as Wigent and Lewis would take 4 tires, Montgomery and Gandee would take 2. Gandee would in fact take the race lead during the cycle with Montgomery close in tow. Gandee had set himself up to take the stage, but a slip in turns 3 & 4 wahsed the 48 up, allowing the 14 of Montgomery to slip through to steal his 5th stage of the season.
Stage 2 saw fuel saving go full bore as a number of drivers looked to stretch the full 19 laps of the stage. Wigent and Montgomery still set the pace, as car by car would back off to conserve what they could to push the limits on a fuel run. As the run went on, car after car dropped to pit road for a stop and go fuel pop. By the end, Shad Swatsworth was showing the way but having to back off so much, he saw his lead over the now second place Aaron Dukes, rapidly closing. However the 46 would begin sputtering on the back stretch, looking to coast all the way back to line. A feat he nearly accomplished. Dukes well under power would scream pass the 46 of Swatsworth just 75 feet from the line to snag his 3rd stage win of the year.
The final stage became an amalgamation of the first two stages, and strategy quickly came to forefront of everyone's mind. Attempting to turn the final 53 laps into a 2 stop race and every driver had an idea of how to get there, from those backing off early to try to split up the stages to those going full conservation mode on the final run to the checkers. Some guys would make it, some wouldn't. Two of the strongest cars all night in Wigent and Montgomery, who combined to lead over 80% of the race, fell short by the end. Dukes, Gandee, and Richard McGinnis looked early on to conserve giving up tons of time to be able push hard at the end. However the winning strategy turned out to be smack in the middle. Though Sam Wade and Shad Swatsworth scrambled in the final run to save fuel, the huge advantage they held over Gandee and Dukes was over three quarters of a track, and they used up enough to leave the finish between them. Wade, who tends to find himself a tough competitor in these fuel mileage races, put up a whale of a fight all the way to the checkers. Alas Wade would come up just a couple hundred feet short of the finish line, as Swatsworth would go on to take the win as both drivers were running out of fuel. Wade with back to back runner up finishes, as Gandee found his groove in the fuel mileage game to come home 3rd. Dukes would finish the night 4th, as McGinnis rounded out the top 5.
Gandee made a true championship move, switching up his game after realizing in the final stage his handling just wasn't there. Falling to 7th on the stage start, seemingly hobbled, Gandee made the decision to shadow Dukes throughout the final runs to put himself in a successful position by races end. Though he lost some ground to the 46, he still holds a solid 35 point lead with 5 races to go. Meanwhile, Shad Swatsworth picked up a timely win to keep the championship advantage from exceeding 40 points. Second win of the season makes him the only driver besides Gandee with multiple wins. Montgomery picked up yet another stage win to tie Lewis with the most on the season, but the finish was far from expectation. After having one of the strongest cars on the night, fuel mileage again bit the 14 team by the time the checkers flew. Though solidly in third, points lost to those ahead is ill timed, now 54 points in back of Gandee. Lewis became the pinnacle of disappointment in Charlotte. A top 5 car all night, running out of fuel and having to pit dropped the 9 team to a 9th place finish a lap down. Now just 3 points set Lewis from Dukes in 5th, as the look towards Gandee furthers. Dukes picked up another top 5 following last weeks win, but the 99 team looked non competitive all night. Pouncing on saving opportunities to improve his race, pace was all but non-existent. Yet, only lost 2 points to the championship lead as a stage win bolstered his bonus points on the night, now 72 points behind the top spot.